Multiple Nations Call for Reform in International Cannabis Policies at United Nations International Patient Advocates Attend UNGASS Meetings to Push for Concrete Action

April 19, 2016 | Talana Lattimer

(New York, NY) – The United Nation’s General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drug policy began today with representatives and world leaders making strong statements urging member countries to move beyond prohibition and into effective regulations for medical Cannabis. H.E. Mogens Lykketoft, the current President of UNGASS, opened the event by discussing the need to address cannabis and the unfortunate situation where medical “cannabis laws defy the current conventions,” and that “...access to drugs for medical use is a human right to protect.”

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Executive Director, Steph Sherer along with members from the International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition (IMCPC) are in attendance and are meeting with UN officials in order to help with the effort of making UNGASS 2016 the starting point for the change in the scheduling status of Cannabis.

Cannabis is currently scheduled in Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol (the “Single Convention”). This scheduling was created based on a report created by the Health Committee of the League of Nations in 1935.

Governments across the globe have used the UN Single Convention of 1961, including the United States, to derail attempts to reform national medical cannabis laws and research. However, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has joined countries such as Jamaica and Uruguay in pushing alternative approaches to regulating medical cannabis by stressing the “importance of allowing cannabis for medical and scientific uses under the United Nations standards [translated]” in his address to UNGASS.

World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director General Dr. Margaret Chan also stated, “drug policies that focus almost exclusively on use of the criminal justice system need to be broadened by embracing a public health approach. A public health approach starts with the science and the evidence,” Dr. Chan continued, “Many controlled substances play a critical role in medical care, for the relief of pain.”

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) makes decisions on scheduling of substances based on recommendations from the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD). However, any member state can create a pathway for a critical review by invoking their rights under Article 3, paragraph 1 of the Single Convention Treaty of 1961.

In Vienna last month, UN officials created an Outcome Document to set international priorities for drug policy.  To help outline critical issues, ASA and IMPC have created a 1-page document that ties cannabis into the international priorities for drug policy Outcome Document. The document,”Cannabis must be rescheduled in order to meet the objective of ensuring the availability of and access to controlled substances exclusively for medical and scientific purposes;” along with ASA’s groundbreaking report, entitled Cannabis and Cannabis Resin Critical Review Preparation Document, was prepared for the CND, will be provided to every delegate from the 180 nations represented.

“The current international policies on cannabis are outdated and are having a detrimental impact on patients in the United States and worldwide,” said Sherer. “New policies should take into account new clinical research, product safety protocols for cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution, and global patient needs.”  

Sherer and IMCPC delegates will be attendance through the conclusion of UNGASS until April 21st.

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